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To the Blockchain And Beyond: Are Security Tokens the Third Wave in Fintech?

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third wave of fintech

In a competitive landscape, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) funding has become a tough nut to crack. With various ICO scandals leaving a sour taste in investors mouths, more sophisticated offerings such as Security Token Offerings (STOs) find themselves subject to increased scrutiny.

The challenge lies in their unfamiliarity amongst most financial professionals. Despite being a model closer to traditional financial products, adoption and understanding in mainstream finance continues at a slow pace.

While the mainstream has been tentative to adopt security tokens, they have recently gained unparalleled popularity in the cryptocurrency industry. Security tokens, security-type certificates or tokens registered under a legal and regulatory framework, are seen by several key industry players as a more legitimate way to perform ICOs.

However, beyond this, security tokens also have the potential to completely revolutionise global financial practices like securities tokenisation.

For securities trading, the benefits of blockchain boil down to three key areas: circulation and liquidity, versatility and security and the securitisation of new assets.

Circulation and liquidity

The current structure of the securities market means that cross-border transactions are limited to a few exchanges only, and can often be slow and costly – trade reconciliation work has to be done manually, along with other labour intensive database tasks. Token exchanges have the potential to solve this – they now operate 24 hours, 365 days a year, trading is relatively liquid and transactions are settled in the same working day with no clearing period, otherwise known as ‘T+0’.

Furthermore, these tokens can be traded in Satoshi units, which have nine decimal places – enabling smaller trades to be done and lowering the investment threshold, meaning more people can invest than ever before.

Should we apply this technology to the securities market, it would have the potential to solve the circulation and liquidity problem, as well as making transactions easier by removing cross-border restrictions.

Versatility and security

Industry adoption of security tokens could also provide some strengths when it comes to versatility, as they can have a high degree of interoperability. By tokenising any form of asset, you open it up to be traded for a much wider range of things, like security tokens, utility tokens or digital currencies, rather than just another security token.

The decentralised ledger system also means that it would be more difficult to hack compared to a centralised server system, making ownership of the tokens more secure.

In addition, security tokens offer more security than other cryptocurrencies, as everything is linked to the individual’s ownership. For Bitcoin, if you are a victim of a hacked account or someone gets hold of your private keys, the Bitcoins in question would most likely be gone and the chances of you proving ownership of the Bitcoins are slim.

However, due to a tangible underlying asset, security token hacks take a different form. While hacks could lead ownership to be debatable, the asset in question will still be there. And as long as the company issuing the security tokens has been through sufficient Know Your Customer (KYC) checks, ownership can be resolved. Furthermore, stealing a security token from someone would leave a transaction record on the blockchain, which is the digital equivalent of leaving your fingerprints all over the crime scene.

Securitising new assets

Tokens are unique in that that they can securitise various forms of assets including both tangible and intangible assets. This has already had some success, with the recent auction of Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs, an iconic contemporary art piece featuring an electric chair, allowing art lovers to buy a share in the painting.

This would also contribute to liquidity and interoperability of assets, as these small units can subsequently be traded. This goes beyond art – in the future we can expect to see assets like office buildings operating on a fractionalised ownership model, allowing smaller investors who previously would not be able to afford investment in this asset class to participate.

A ‘super’ future for securities?

blockchainAs a result, not only do securities tokens provide a safer and more sustainable alternative to the ICO model, but they also have the potential to revolutionise the traditional securities market, possibly opening up the idea of ‘super securities’ further down the line.

Through blockchain technology, securities can be made more accessible, liquid, and secure by removing third-party risk and lowering transaction costs. Should the trend continue, we could see security tokens becoming standard practice, eventually replacing existing securities to become ‘super securities’.

With this in mind, those who herald security tokens as third wave in Fintech may well be right, particularly when it comes to revolutionising securities trading. However, how we approach this next technological step is crucial. If implemented correctly, security tokens could significantly improve existing processes and make investment accessible to all, bringing positive change not only for the future of cryptocurrencies, but also for the wider financial markets.

This guest post was contributed by Jack Chia, MD of Cryptology.

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Top 20 African Blockchain Influencers to Follow on Crypto Twitter in 2019

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African Blockchain Influencers

Blockchain technology has evolved beyond being a solely decentralised database for digital currencies. Now, the blockchain is being used to transform and disrupt traditional infrastructures in Africa from banking and healthcare to real estate and even ride shares.

BitcoinAfrica.io has compiled a list of 20 leading African blockchain influencers that are helping to make these changes happen.

Michael Kimani

Mic Kimani is the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya and co-founder at Chamapesa, a company using blockchain technology to digitise social savings groups in Africa. An expert with over five years of experience in the industry, Michael is considered one of Africa’s foremost cryptocurrency and blockchain thought leaders.

John Karanja

John Karanja is the founder of BitHub Africa, a blockchain accelerator located in Nairobi, Kenya. He also founded the blockchain startup Whive, a peer-to-peer protocol that extends Bitcoin incentivising sustainable energy solutions through trustless rewards.

Sonya Kuhnel

Sonya Kuhnel is a pioneer in the South African blockchain technology industry. She serves as Managing Director of the Blockchain Academy, co-founded the Blockchain Africa Conference, and BitSure that uses blockchain technology for retail payments.

Tricia Martinez

Tricia Martinez is the CEO and founder at Wala, a zero-fee financial services app for emerging markets. She is a behavioural economist who has made her career in driving innovative technology solutions to underserved people in Africa.

Vinny Lingham

Vinny Lingham is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of CivicKey, a company that builds blockchain ID platforms. He was the ICT Personality of the Year in South Africa in 2008 and Shark Tank’s first bitcoin investor.

Alakanani Itireleng

Alakanani Itireleng is on a mission to educate Botswana’s citizens about bitcoin and blockchain technology. Itireleng founded the Gaborone-based Satoshicentre, a platform aimed at teaching blockchain technology in Botswana and Africa, and the farming blockchain platform Plaas.

Gareth Grobler

Gareth Grobler is a co-founder of the cryptocurrency exchange ICE³X and speaker on the topics of digital assets and blockchain technology. He has over 14 years of experience in IT infrastructure development.

Faith Obafemi

Faith Obafemi is a digital lawyer advising on legal tech, digital assets, smart contracts, and everything else blockchain-related. She is passionate about the blockchain industry and regularly contributes as a writer in this field.

Frank Deya

Frank Deya is the COO of æternity Hub Africa and co-founded Nairobi-based blockchain startup BitSoko. He is also a regular speaker at blockchain events in Kenya.

Tawanda Kembo

Tawanda Kembo is a co-founder of Zimbabwean bitcoin exchange Golix. He has been involved with the blockchain technology since 2013 and has acted as a consultant to several blockchain companies in Africa.

Verengai Mabika

Verengai Mabika is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Global Public Policy team and a blockchain enthusiast. In his own words, he is a social innovation freak who helped to build Zimbabwean cryptocurrency exchange Golix.

Dickson Nsofor

Dickson Nsofor is the CEO and co-founder of Korapay, a cross-border payment and remittance platform, that aims to connect Africa to the rest of the world.

Professor Nii Quaynor

Professor Nii Quaynor is a Ghanaian Internet pioneer. He is well known for pioneering Internet development and expansion throughout Africa for almost two decades, establishing some of the continent’s first Internet connections. He is also the Chairman of Ghana Dot Com and a proponent of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for Africa.

Kwame Rugunda

Kwame Rugunda is the Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Uganda. He is also the CEO of CryptoSavannah, which offers solutions, advice and training in blockchain technology, and organised the Africa Blockchain Conference.

Riccardo Spagni

Riccardo Spagni is the founder of the privacy-centric digital currency Monero. He acts as the lead of the Monero Dev team and is also involved in several projects and startups including South Africa-based Tari.

Farzam Ehsani

Farzam Ehsani is a Co-Founder and CEO at VALR, a new South African digital asset exchange. He also helped to establish the Foundery, RMB’s fintech unit, where he is currently leading Rand Merchant Bank’s blockchain initiative.

G-J van Rooyen

G-J van Rooyen is the CEO of Custos Tech, a company using blockchain technology with forensic watermarking to impact copyright protection.

Devon Krantz

Devon Krantz is a co-founder and managing director of Linum Labs. Linum Labs provides blockchain training, consulting, smart contract auditing and software development solutions globally.

Lorien Gamaroff

Lorien Gamaroff is the CEO of South African cryptocurrency wallet startup Centbee. He is a regular speaker at blockchain conferences and a proponent of the recently forked Bitcoin Cash offshoot Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV).

Elisha Owusu Akyaw

Elisha Owusu Akyaw is Africa’s youngest blockchain influencer, marketer and journalist. The 17-year-old Ghanaian founded BlockXAfrica, a blockchain marketing company, and the cryptocurrency news site CoinNewsLive.com.

 

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Is KeniCoin Kenya’s First Homegrown Cryptocurrency Scam?

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KeniCoin is a Kenyan cryptocurrency that has been in the spotlight recently over allegations of potentially being a scam. BitcoinAfrica.io investigated KeniCoin to determine whether it is a legitimate cryptocurrency or a fraudulent operation. In this article, you will discover our findings.

What is KeniCoin?

KeniCoin claims to be a multi-utility cryptocurrency platform that is fueled by KeniCoin (KNC) tokens. According to the KeniCoin website, the cryptocurrency is backed by real businesses, which is supposed to make it a reliable and predictable payment option for vendors.

The platform claims to offer free and fast peer-to-peer online transactions. Moreover, KeniCoin investors will allegedly receive a high return on investment (ROI) on KNC tokens due to their limited supply and presence of a strong merchant network. Consumers, on the other hand, will be able to enjoy a 40 percent discount whenever they transact using KeniCoin.

Furthermore, KeniCoin claims to provide an alternative saving option to banks, which allows for micro-savings and provides interest. The website describes KeniCoin as the “Next Generation Banking Platform for the people in Kenya and Africa.”

How Does KeniCoin Work?

KeniCoin is marketed as an ERC-20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain. To purchase the cryptocurrency you have to register on the KeniCoin site and provide your name, a username, email address, and password. Once your account has been verified you can proceed to log in.

To get started, you have to fund your account using bitcoin (BTC) or fiat currency via mobile money.

Once you deposit money in your KeniCoin account, you will receive the equivalent amount of KNC in your in-platform wallet. However, during our analysis, we noticed the BTC wallet option appeared to be no longer working. It is unclear whether this is a technical problem or a shift to a fiat-only operation.

If you are looking to convert your KeniCoins to another cryptoasset, there are instructions on the site directing you to the KeniCoin Exchange. Information on the platform states users can trade KeniCoins (KNC) for bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH).

The exchange asserts that you can trade your KNC for fiat and withdraw your earnings via a direct bank transfer. Moreover, should you decide to lock away 50 or more KeniCoins in the platform, you are entitled to ten percent interest every month.

The KeniCoin ICO

KeniCoin launched an ICO in July 2018. The token sale was marketed aggressively on local radio and through KeniCoin agents. According to the site, ten million KNC tokens were provided for the ICO and retailed at KES 100 (worth around $1.00).

The site alleges $250,000 was raised from the token sale with 500,000 tokens being sold. Moreover, according to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the newly issued tokens will gain in value. Specifically, the company stated in the whitepaper:

“We are very sure that, within the first 12 month after ICO, the value of KeniCoin will have increased at least 30 folds, which is around 3000%.”

The project road map outlines that 20 percent of the funds raised will go to the founders with the bulk of the remainder being used to develop various platforms accepting KNC payments. The KeniCoin tokens were to be traded on the KeniCoin Exchange, which was launched soon thereafter.

Regulator Warns Against KeniCoin

In January 2019, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Kenya’s market regulator issued a press release warning the public against participating in the KeniCoin token sale or trading KNC. The CMA CEO, Paul Muthaura stated,

“It is important for the general public to note that the nature and features of the Capital Raising and Coins Trading promoted by Wiseman Talent Ventures is taking the form of Regulated activities which have not yet been approved by the Authority.”

The regulator expressed its concerns about KeniCoin promising investors a ten percent monthly return on their initial investment on KNC tokens. In addition, the CMA pointed out that KeniCoin was being marketed as rising exponentially in value since its ICO which posed “substantive information asymmetry, liquidity and fraud risks.”

“The Authority is currently investigating the operations of Wiseman Talent Ventures. We have noted discrepancies in the information provided on the firm’s website www.kenicoin.com and the information given to the Authority during interviews of Wiseman Talent Ventures leadership in relation to the total number of Kenicoin sold and the total funds raised,” Muthaura added.

Obscure Founders

AnonymousOur efforts to establish the team behind KeniCoin also proved unsuccessful. According to the KeniCoin whitepaper, the founder of the cryptocurrency is Haron Muthomi Kiriba who is sometimes referred to as Haron Wiseman. We did a little digging to find out more about Wiseman.

What we managed to uncover was a Twitter account under the name Haron Wiseman, which described him as a transformational speaker and founder of Wiseman Talent Ventures. Wiseman Talent Ventures is mentioned in the CMA cautionary statement as the company behind KeniCoin. An online search for Wiseman Talent Ventures was only able to produce an office address.

Also, Haron Kiriba’s Twitter account appears to have been inactive for a while. His LinkedIn profile portrays him as the CEO of a property company. Nothing we uncovered pointed to any prior involvement in the cryptocurrency space or any other venture for that matter.

The KeniCoin whitepaper states that the cryptocurrency is supposedly developed by a number of international blockchain and AI experts. However, their names are not mentioned and their identities – if they ever actually existed – remain unknown which is standard practice in fraudulent cryptocurrency-based ventures.

Providing little to no public information about the company’s ownership structure does not help the company in its attempts to be perceived as a legitimate venture.

More Red Flags

KeniCoin

A critical examination of the information provided on the KeniCoin site and whitepaper reveals a number of inconsistencies and falsehoods. For instance, the KeniCoin whitepaper claims the project is backed by a number of companies yet we can only prove one, Wiseman Talent Ventures, and even its existence is in doubt.

Also, the amount of funds raised during the concluded KeniCoin ICO seems unclear. The site claims $250,000 worth of KNC tokens were sold during its token sale. However, when it comes to distribution of ICO funds, the amount displayed is $5.3 million.

In addition, the company claims KNC is the first local digital currency to be released in the market with a network of up to 10,000 merchants. This is an outright falsehood with research failing to turn up a single business associated with KeniCoin. You will notice most of the statements concerning stability and increasing value of KNC tokens, are tied to the assurance of many businesses in the ecosystem.

Perhaps, the obvious flaw with KNC is the de facto promise of returns for early adopters. The whitepaper states KNC holders can expect the value of the token to increase by 3,000 percent in twelve months after the ICO. At the time of writing this article, the price of KeniCoin published on the company’s website was $3.45.

Currently, there is an update on KeniCoin Exchange teasing users about the launch of a new utility, that will result in the price of KNC rising to Ksh. 10,000 (worth around $100). Strangely, KeniCoin appears immune to market volatility and according to numbers presented on the platform, has so far managed to retain an upward trajectory.

Yet, this does not resonate with what we know of the crypto markets which are highly volatile. In fact, since early 2018, the value of most digital currencies have slumped as the markets have been experiencing a “crypto winter.”

It stands to reason any investment exhibiting a continued uptrend in price over a long period could indicate price manipulation or fraud.

A summary of KeniCoin’s potential red flags include:

  • The mystery surrounding the persona of Haron Wiseman, the alleged founder of KeniCoin
  • The company gives no insight into the ownership structure
  • The alleged rise in KeniCoin price without any real use case outside of trading
  • Lack of a merchant network driving adoption as is claimed in the whitepaper
  • A claim of profits for investors, which no real investment can ever guarantee
  • The Kenyan Capital Markets Authority has issued a warning against KeniCoin
  • Very little technical details on how the cryptocurrency actually works
  • KeniCoin can only be bought and sold on the company’s own exchange

Unavailability for Comment

BitcoinAfrica.io tried to contact KeniCoin to hear the company views on the issues raised by the Kenyan financial regulator. However, this proved difficult as our attempts to engage the KeniCoin team proved unsuccessful.

Initially, we tried to contact them using the phone numbers provided on its website. We managed to get through but were twice rebuffed with the response being “ongoing consultations with management.” At the time of writing this article, no feedback has been forthcoming from KeniCoin.

Interestingly, the KeniCoin staff member who we were able to reach on the phone expressed distrust for news agencies saying, “you social media guys are tarnishing our name.” The company does not seem to want to talk to the media.

KeniCoin ScamBitcoinAfrica.io also attempted to reach out to the Nairobi-based company via social media but our attempts to get in contact with the company over Twitter, LinkedIn and Email were futile. The company’s email address does not work and the company’s Twitter account has been suspended.

Kenyan Crypto Twitter Responds to KeniCoin

Leading figures of the Kenyan cryptocurrency community responded on social media to KeniCoin advertisement on Kameme FM.

Micheal Kimani, Chairman of the Kenya Blockchain Association, tweeted:.

Ken Kimathi, Kenya’s Remitano representative, also shared his opinion about the alleged digital currency scam. He tweeted:

And they were not the only Kenyans to voice their concerns on social media. An ample amount of Twitter users highlighted the project’s unrealistic earnings potential, which makes the company look like a fraudulent operation.

Is KeniCoin a Scam?

Bitcoin ScamWhile there may be people who believe that KeniCoin is a real investment opportunity, it would be hard to ignore the evidence that suggests the opposite.

KeniCoin has several of the same characteristics as crypto scams that have previously penetrated the African market.

KeniCoin may not be different from a typical MLM operation used by pyramid schemes like OneCoin and MMM, which succeeded in defrauding hundreds of thousands of Africans.

Conversely, one may argue that KeniCoin closely resembles a pump and dump scheme where the owners are making money by pumping up the value of KNC and then selling it for a profit on the open market. Once they have made enough profits, they exit, and users are left holding worthless coins.

Moreover, since price discovery for KNC tokens only occurs on the company’s own platform, it is impossible to say how much one KeniCoin is really worth.

Given that KeniCoin makes claims such as: “KeniCoin platform allows you to grow your wealth up to x12 every year,” it is difficult to see how this could possibly be a legitimate cryptocurrency investment.

Conclusion

Investors are always advised to conduct thorough research, consult experts, and use common sense before investing in any digital asset venture.

“Investments” like KeniCoin provide a good example of the type of cryptocurrency investment “opportunity” to avoid. While no one can claim that KeniCoin is a scam until it has been declared a fraudulent operation by a court of law, the mountain of evidence against the company would suggest that it probably is.

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Crypto Union And Zaddex Aim to Empower SMEs in West Africa Using STOs

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SMEs in West Africa

Crypto banking startup, Ø Crypto Union, and newly launched digital asset exchange, Zaddex, have entered into a joint venture that aims to boost the SME market in West Africa through the launch of a security token platform.

STOs for SMEs in Cote d’Ivoire

Crypto UnionAccording to a statement by Ø Crypto Union, the joint venture with Zaddex seeks to further the blockchain banking startup’s agenda of empowering small and medium-sized businesses in Africa.

The partnership will enable West African SMEs – initially to based in Côte d’Ivoire – to receive access to funding through a new security token platform. The plan is to expand across the whole West African Monetary and Economic Union (UEMOA) by offering equity and debt financing via asset-backed loans and e-money.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Trade Ministry, the regional stock exchange BVRM, and other government agencies have documented the agreement. Moreover, Zaddex is fully licensed to operate in West Africa.

Ø Crypto Union has committed to invest in 150 small businesses in the Côte d’Ivoire to accelerate economic development in local economies and the nation’s SME market.

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